The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

A Drone And A Drum: Lisa Gerrard's Favourite Music
Lottie Brazier , June 23rd, 2021 08:57

From falling into the ‘massive abyss’ of Alfred Schnittke, to the ‘silly and lovely’ Electric Light Orchestra, Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance delivers Lottie Brazier a guide to her thirteen favourite pieces of music

Photo by Vaughan Stedman

You’ve probably heard Lisa Gerrard’s voice without realising it; as a sample, it introduces the first hazy bars of The Future Sound Of London’s one-of-a-kind rave anthem ‘Papua New Guinea’. Signed to 4AD alongside Cocteau Twins, Gerrard’s own group Dead Can Dance sound more earthy than their labelmates; listening to Cocteau Twins, for her, is more like flying or floating instead. Gerrard herself is a fan of the Cocteau Twins, but stresses that they were in no way trying to emulate them. Dead Can Dance’s self-titled debut was most evocative of their namesake, a palette cemented in a murky guitar sound, distant-sounding drum machines and grainy samples.

Although this most certainly earned them a place on the 4AD roster, their sound became more spacious and dramatic over time, growing as if perceiving their setup more like an orchestra than a band. Gerrard describes how Dead Can Dance toured all over Europe, listening to cassettes, absorbing folk and classical traditions. Their song structures eventually become unrecognisable compared to their early work; The Serpent’s Egg has a kind of regal melancholy and a choral focus, and Aion a medieval-sounding range.

Aside from smattering of impressive performances with Dead Can Dance in recent years, Gerrard has become increasingly more focused on her own solo output. In 2020 she released an album with The Genesis Orchestra, conducted by Yordan Kamdzhalov; a challenge for her to sing in Polish. This May, she released the album Burn, composed with Jules Maxwell, and produced by James Chapman of Maps. It is also to be released as a NFT on the eco-friendly platform Hic Et Nunc.

Listening to Lisa Gerrard talk about her Baker’s Dozen choices, and her musical roots in piano accordion, it’s easy to see how the Dead Can Dance sound is so engulfed in the traditions that inspired them. However, among these are a few surprises, showing a much lighter, humorous side to a singer who just commands so much seriousness in her voice.

Lisa Gerrard's new album 'Burn' with Jules Maxwell is out now. To begin reading her Baker’s Dozen, click the picture of her below